Halloween has always been very illustrative of a harvest's end.
In the old days in Trumbull and Mahoning counties, we would see corn shocks stacked up high, occupying endless fields on farmlands. Pumpkins, bright orange in the sunlight, seem to glow, and there's a cascade of colors produced by the leaves ready to fall.
This is so reminiscent of a grand finale of fireworks exploding in daylight instead of the dead of night. Nature seems to be putting on its last big show before the drudgery of winter sets in. During this time of a joyful harvest, Halloween just seems to fit in with the splendid scenery and colorful hues.
The Celts were people who lived in the area that became Ireland, Britain and Northern France some 2,000 years ago. As legend and history have it, their New Year was celebrated on Nov. 1. This day also marked harvest's end and the beginning of the terrible winter months.
They celebrated what they called Samhain on the night of Oct. 31. They believed that on that night, the ghosts of the dead returned to earth. The Celts held celebrations for this holiday. They wore costumes that were made from animal heads and skins.
By 43 A.D., the Romans took over much of the Celt's territory and initiated their own celebrations, combining the Celt's Samhain with their own version called Feralia, where the ritual of bobbing for apples was originated - so they say.
It seemed by the 800s, Christianity spread to the land of the Celts, and Pope Boniface IV redesignated Nov. 1 as All Saints Day, which was also called All-Hallows or All-Hallomas, which eventually became Halloween. They dressed in costumes of devils, angels and saints.
When English immigrants arrived on the shores of America along with their prized possessions, they also brought their prized Halloween customs with them. They, of course, celebrated their harvest, held parties, told frightening stories of the dead and ghosts. It seems that mischief making was also part of the criteria.
By the end of the 19th century, there was a flood of American immigrants, mostly Irish. They immediately seemed to popularize Halloween nationally with their beliefs and traditions of that sacred day. At this time, Americans began to dress up in costumes and go from house to house begging for food and money. Thus the era of trick or treating began.
At the turn of the 20th century, Halloween parties for adults and children became quite common. Those parties included games, food, cold cider and, of course, outlandish costumes that were usually judged and awarded prizes.
There seemed to be a change at this time, as parents were encouraged to take anything frightening out of Halloween celebrations and parties. By doing so, Halloween seemed to lose its luster and superstitious overtones. However, most of that has returned.
There have always been forms of vandalism during Halloween. Pranksters didn't know when to stop as damage to homes and property began to occur. In my day, we used to take shelled field corn and throw it at people's windows just to hear the sound. If a treat was not offered, their windows were soaped.
Halloween today mainly is for the young. Trick-or-treating is more popular than ever, and hardly ever is a trick performed. Parties have moved to classrooms and homes.
Different service groups have purchased old homes and transformed them into their own haunted houses, charging admission to people to get scared stiff. They raise funds that way for their causes and for their communities. Their array of scares includes ghosts, monsters, witches, goblins and that scary maniac with a chain saw who chases every one and is also a big hit.
A successful pre-Halloween event occurs in Warren called Ghost Walk. This year marked the 25th with a Civil War theme.
Of course, just like every other holiday, Halloween today is vastly commercialized. It is said that Americans spend an estimated $6.9 billion annually on Halloween. That's a lot of candy, costumes, brooms, black cats, witches, jack-o-lanterns and just plain pumpkins.